Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lakewood One Win Away From SAL Title


Tuesday night the BlueClaws played their last home game of the season, and it turned out the be the biggest game of 2009. Faced with the next 3 games of the South Atlantic League Championship series on the road in Greenville, South Carolina, it was crucial for Lakewood to take a bigger lead in the series and not allow the Greenville Drive to tie it. Winning 2 of 3 on the road would surely be a much more difficult task than winning just 1 of 3 there.

The BlueClaws won game 2 over the Drive by a score of 3-0, and the die hard Lakewood fans left FirstEnergy Park with great confidence that their team will lock down a championship on the road before the week is over.

Jesus Sanchez threw an exceptional game, with 6 shut out innings for the BlueClaws. He allowed just three hits and two walks while striking out 5. It was surely the biggest game of his young career. Phillies phans may remember the righty Sanchez, a converted catcher, as a piece that came over from the Yankees in the 2006 Bobby Abreu trade.

Jesus Sanchez warming up prior to game 2


Sanchez was backed up by Austin Hyatt and Santo Hernandez. Hyatt hurled 2 scoreless innings, while striking out four. Hernandez made it interesting in the 9th inning, trying to lock down the save. After getting the first two Drive batters out, Hernandez gave up a double to Shannon Wilkerson and a single to prized Red Sox prospect Casey Kelly. With runners on the corners, Oscar Tejeda flied out and the 'Claws celebrated.

Drive pitcher Caleb Clay faced the minimum through 4 innings, only allowing a runner on an error that was erased by a caught stealing. Lakewood was still hitless with 2 outs in the 5th inning when they broke through for 3 straight hits to take the lead 1-0 on a Troy Hanzawa double.

Lakewood hitting coach Greg Legg praised Hanzawa as an underrated star performer for the 'Claws, saying, "Hanzawa probably gets no credit for anything he does, and he keeps getting it done. (He had a) key double tonight, and he's done that all year for us."

The BlueClaws plated a pair of additional runs in the 6th on a Harold Garcia RBI single and when Sebastian Valle was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Manager Dusty Wathan asserted that timely hitting has been the key for Lakewood. "I'll take timely hitting over 10 hits a night any day. They no hit us for 4 plus (innings). That guy (Clay) had it going tonight and sometimes the first hit's the hardest one to get. I think when you have a lead in a series and you can score first, after they have that good of a start, I think it takes a little bit out of their sails."

Tuesday also marked the second straight day that Lakewood played host to a rehabbing Major League Phillie. Greg Dobbs started the game at third base and led off for the BlueClaws. He was hitless in two trips to the plate and made two assists on defense.

Dobbs spoke about being excited to play in the post season with the BlueClaws, "These guys have worked hard and they're very proud of what they've accomplished so far, so you want to keep up with that. You want to bring that same energy and intensity into the game."

The series will continue in Greenville on Thursday night at 7:05. Games 4 and 5, if necessary, will be Friday and Saturday at the same time.

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